A zoo to a thrill – handwashing at the petting zoo, animated version

A fellow food safety nerd wrote to tell me he spent Sunday at the zoo with his wife and two young children, and was amazed at the various public health practices that do or do not exist when mixing children, animals, and food, all in the same place.

Ironically – or maybe like the Alanis song, more of a coincidence – Sorenne and I were chilling to Special Agent Oso while chowing on some oatmeal and berries and it was the petting zoo episode.

Amy has already written about this episode because, like most children’s television series, a dozen original episodes are produced and then replayed incessantly.

Washed hands before feeding the llama reduces disease transmission from humans to animals; washing hands after feeding the llama reduces disease transmission from animals to humans: diseases go both ways. The kid in this episode got it right, with handwashing before and after.

Useless trivia: Special Agent Oso, the unique stuffed bear, is voiced by Sean Astin, the movie actor known for roles in The Goonies, Rudy, Lord of the Rings, and as the steroid abusing dim-witted brother in 50 First Dates.

Special Agent Oso Feeds a Llama at the Petting Zoo

I want a llama. Or so I’ve been telling Doug ever since I saw Tina the lasagna-eating llama in one of my favorite films, Napoleon Dynamite. Now we have a baby and our lifestyle is not compatible with llama tending.

This morning when Sorenne and I got up, we turned on the Disney channel to watch Special Agent Oso. The episode, “A Zoo to a Thrill” showed Oso helping June Kim feed a llama at the petting zoo. Special Agent Oso always has to accomplish “three special steps” in each of his missions. This time it was:

  • step one: get the llama food
  • step two: wait your turn in line
  • step three: feed the llama.

Not included in the steps, but clearly shown in the episode were washing hands before getting the llama food and after feeding the llama. Our veterinary friend Kate Stenske told us that washing your hands before handling the animals is a question of not transmitting whatever you have to the animals and washing them afterwards is about not transmitting what the animal has to you.

I was especially pleased in this episode to see that June Kim’s father stayed outside of the petting zoo area while he fed his baby a bottle. Bottles and pacifiers are at high risk for cross-contamination in such areas because some of the pathogens can be aerosolized.

If Sorenne wants to meet a llama, I may take her to a petting zoo someday, or to our friend and contractor Russell’s house. We’ll try to make sure she washes her hands so her first visit to a zoo does not give her a bad thrill.